Child Abuse Concerns in Foster Care Prompt New Rules
New rules approved by the Texas Department of Family Protective Services on Friday will aim to create safer foster homes for children by increasing screening measures.
The regulations are in response to a rise in the number of deaths that have occurred over the past year amidst children in the foster care system. There are currently 220 child-placing agencies (CPA’s) in the state of Texas who have been licensed by the Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) to recruit, train, and monitor new foster parents.
Foster parents currently undergo at least 30 hours of training including courses for Behavior Management and Therapeutic Parenting according to Jennifer Scott, the Family Development Specialist for Covenant Kids, a CPA that serves the Dallas/Fort Worth Area. The new rules, in addition to standing regulations, include:
- An additional interview of a family member not living in the home.
- Two additional interviews of neighbors, clergy, school employees, and/or other community members.
- Interviews of all adult children of foster parents.
- An assessment of personal relationships of foster parents, and review of household finances.
- Review of any law enforcement agency calls to the foster home for the past two years.
- Verification of identity and background checks for any person designated as an emergency caregiver.
“We pretty much do most of that already,” says Scott. “We are very proactive in our assessment and want to make sure that our families are going to be well prepared to meet the needs of our children. Some of our kids come from pretty tough backgrounds and need the extra support.”
The goal of DFPS is to ensure that CPA’s are more familiar with not only foster parents, but people who will come in close contact with the foster home.
“These rules significantly strengthen protections for our foster children,” DFPS Commissioner Judge John Specia said in a department press release. “Our focus is ensuring that we know who is in these homes and who may be around these children that could pose an unacceptable risk. These children deserve complete protection and safety.”
DFPS and current foster care providers have worked closely to develop the new rules. In fiscal year 2013, eight foster children died from abuse/neglect in homes, compared to just two in FY 2012 according to DFPS. The rules will go into effect at the start of the next FY on September 1st, 2014.